• Mark Perry

"Lead by listening" - en route to a resilient recovery in Southeast Asia by Lauren Sorkin, GRCN

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

The Green Lead recently had the pleasure of hosting Lauren Sorkin, Executive Director of the Global Resilient Cities Network for a talk on how cities in Southeast Asia are going about ensuring resilient recoveries. Link to the full talk here.

Hosted by the Royal Danish Embassy, The Green Lead is an ongoing series of flash-talks with regional thought leaders aimed at sharing experiences, best practices, and linking up partners to drive the green transition through accelerated regional collaboration opportunities. Main take-home messages and key insights from each flash-talk will be summarized & shared via the Green Denmark in Southeast Asia portal.

Q: What are your key lessons learned from 100 Resilient Cities and how will you leverage this in the new Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN)?

It was incredibly powerful for cities to have a common approach to addressing their resilience challenges in a holistic way - Lauren Sorkin.

Besides developing shared frameworks and definitions, one of the most important innovations coming out of the 100 Resilient Cities initiative was to build capacity within cities to address resilience challenges through a Chief Resilience Office.

During the 6 year lifespan of 100 Resilient Cities (from 2013 to 2019), every city appointed a Chief Resilience Officer to plan and prioritize initiatives driving resilience. Now, 6 years down the road, more than 80 cities sustain the Chief Resilience Office and have taken on the role of funding the office.

During the last year, 100 Resilient Cities has transformed from a program funded by a single donor to an independent organization in the form of the Global Resilient Cities Network (GCRN); a city-led impact focused network where cities are a force for change and collective actions.

GCRN continues to enjoy support from The Rockefeller Foundation as well as new donors such as Temasek Foundation International, and Singapore's Economic Development Board.

Q: How are cities in Southeast Asia building back better from COVID19 – should more be done?

Cities don't want to go back to a "normal". Cities want to build back better - Lauren Sorkin.

Many cities in Southeast Asia are still in the midst of dealing with the crisis. While responding to immediate challenges, cities are simultaneously planning to ensure that their path to recovery prepares them not just for today's challenges but also challenges of the future. For coastal cities within ASEAN it is especially important to plan for a world that is less secure in climate terms. Hence, recovery investments will be responsive to climate challenges. Equally so, investments will take into account the increasing urbanization rates in Southeast Asia.

Q: With Danish strongholds in mind, where do you see potential for collaboration in the region?

What's not going to be surprising is that most of our cities are really prioritizing initiatives like securing basic infrastructure, water & sanitation, and - in particular - looking at stormwater & wastewater management - Lauren Sorkin.

Cities are looking for green progressive technologies and partners who are used to looking at challenges and coming up with integrated solutions. This is where Danish companies and knowhow have a lot of opportunities in Southeast Asia.

When it comes to renewable energy, the region is growing by leaps and bounds. Cities are looking to complement and phase-out conventional energy systems with renewables. As an example, Vietnam is one of the top consumers of new renewable energy technologies.

Cities concentrate economic opportunity and business and therefore consume the lion's share of energy. For the same reason cities are looking at how they can guarantee supply and build more resilience into their systems, which may very well become a key driver for an integrated regional energy grid.

Q: What is your single best advice for Danish solution providers looking to contribute to Resilient City development in Southeast Asia?

Lead by listening and not with one size fits all solutions - Lauren Sorkin

Cities, in general, have received a lot of advice on how to get smart, become green, and design a low carbon resilient recovery. Hence, many cities already have plans in place. What they need are partners who are going to meet them where they are and help develop the projects that have already been prioritized.

Q: How can Danish solution providers work with you guys to share best practices and push for green recovery?

More than 60 cities worldwide, including ASEAN cities, have joined forces and formed a community of practice with private sector participation where knowledge and solutions are exchange to drive a green and resilient recovery.

The resulting Cities for a Resilient Recovery (C2R) community is ideally poised to capture opportunities that will be coming up over the next 12-18 months as cities are investing their recovery resources during the 3 phases of dealing with COVID19:

1. Immediate response to manage risks.

2. What is the recovery going to look like?

3. What do we want the day after to look like?


What is Cities for a Resilient Recovery?


Cities for a Resilient Recovery (C2R) is a coalition of cities and resilience practitioners committed to taking leadership, to embedding resilience in recovery, and to supporting each other through the recovery planning process by sharing knowledge, providing subject matter expertise, and facilitating both individual and collective action.

Leveraging the Network’s core strengths (CRO community, holistic urban resilience thinking, broad partnerships, data-driven approaches), the Global Resilient Cities Network and its community of Chief Resilience Officers have launched an open, participatory, and collaborative platform where cities (within and outside of the Network) can exchange knowledge and learning, take stock of the current situation, and identify key actions and initiatives to address the impacts of the crisis and further future-proof their systems in the face of global challenges.

Join the coalition here.

How does Cities for a Resilient Recovery work?


The Cities for a Resilient Recovery platform is based on three pillars.


1. Real time knowledge exchange between practitioners in cities.

In collaboration with The World Bank and the University of Manchester organize:

  • A global community of practice of cities committed to embedding resilience in their recovery planning.

  • Community of Practice on Waste Management in Crisis and Recovery. We are partnered up with The Circulate Initiative and Ocean Conservancy to provide cities with the knowledge and tools they require to address the immediate need for emergency action to manage waste, and to provide urgent relief for waste workers.

  • Community on Practice on Urban Heat.

  • The Coronavirus Speaker Series: Sharing Knowledge to Respond with Resilience, a weekly knowledge sharing online session for the broader urban community.

  • Dedicated weekly briefings (newsletter and online sessions) for urban practitioners working on recovery planning that bring together international lessons and examples on recovery from Covid-19.

  • Monthly practice and technical notes on specific themes that support project development.

For more information about the Communities of Practice, please contact: fgubbels@resilientcitiesnetwork.org

2. Data-driven and system thinking approaches that support cities to understand and prioritize the necessary actions and policies to build their future.

  • Together with the community of Chief Resilience Officers co-design and identify a Toolkit for Resilient Recovery, with suitable methodologies and tools to plan a resilient recovery that can support the different stages within the crisis recovery process.

3. Rally resources and expertise from international organizations, private and non-profit sectors and align them based on city demand for specific priority themes that improve the lives of the most vulnerable urban communities and urban systems that have been impacted by Covid-19.

  • Community development and economic resilience: GRCN is initiating a Resilient Community Impact Fund to be put towards funding prioritized resilience projects focusing on equity building.

  • Waste management and circular economy: strengthening urban sanitation systems and protecting workers in the face of Covid-19, while planning for recovery to advance the circular economy.

  • Urban finance and local economies: support cities in strengthening their local SME ecosystems that have been impacted through Covid-19.

  • Climate resilience: strengthen cities’ efforts to simultaneously protect vulnerable communities from climate and health threats, including urban heat and cascading crises (e.g. hurricane/typhoon and pandemic preparedness).

For more information please contact: ssarkozy@resilientcitiesnetwork.org

Get in touch for more information about business opportunities in Singapore:

Mark Edward Perry

Trade Advisor at Royal Danish Embassy Singapore

Phone: +65 9088 5567

Email: markpe@um.dk

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Initiated by the Danish Trade Council, Green Denmark in Southeast Asia is an open community of thought leaders and Danish companies to inspire and promote green collaboration between Denmark and Southeast Asia.